Dire Friends

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I’d long wished for an original Yu Jing character who was not Japanese or a recreation. This wish came true in the form of Xi Zhuang, a Celestial Guard turned covert operative. Xi Zhuang’s covert operations tend to involve the use of a flamethrower and rolling with a squad of his old buddies. He’s an interesting troop on his own, but given the presence of Number  2 on his only profile, he’s designed to support a team.

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Here’s the kind of team I think he shines in. My logic is that if you are investing in a CQB specialist for your link, you probably think that link is going places. And if you are dragging your fragile line infantry into the fray, one of them might as well be a martial artist legal scholar with power armour and a machinegun. Probably BS 16 after mods, solid medium range-band and burst 5 makes a formidable pointman. Like many mixed links, there is great cost efficiency to be gained by pairing an expensive, dangerous pointman with cheap link filler. Celestial guards and Xi Zhuang are not exactly cheap, but they are less liable to melt under pressure than the chocolate soldiers of other factions. The addition of an imperial agent gives the link a hacking vulnerability that it otherwise would not have had, although stealth (Thanks to martial arts) tends to mean they will be tripped on your terms. Defensively, Xi Zhuang’s MadTraps have the potential to keep hackers (and pig disgusting Ghazi Muttawi’ah) at bay. Overall, it’s a nice synergy, that only gets better when you start upgrading the filler. Boarding shotguns, MULTI sniper rifles and Kuang Shi control devices all have something to add. I’ve taken to having the hacker running separate, as his vulnerability to SWORD programs seems to make him a liability as he does not have stealth to protect him. It’s also less of a hassle to upgrade him to an EVO hacking remote if I am bringing a Garuda tacbot.

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Painting Zhi Xuang didn’t call for anything onerous. His pro-active law enforcement pose didn’t preclude painting him in one piece, which is always a plus. His Madtraps on the other hand, where a phenomenal pain in the ass. Their arms and heads are all separate bits if you can believe that. By the time I had got them to stay together I never wanted to look at them again. Eventually they looked passable but I greatly missed the 10 minute job CrazyKoalas represent.

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And that’s all I have to say about that. I’ve only had a chance to use him once but it looks like he will have a long career ahead of him.

Yes we Kanren

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A midfield meddler par excellence, the Kanren was an unexpected and welcome boost to the Imperial Service’s chronically understaffed selection of things that can enter play outside your deployment zone and things that can impose a negative mod during a face to face roll.

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The base profile has a fairly unique ability to clog the midfield with 5 models; 3 holoechoes and two Madtraps. He’s a competent  fighter thanks to surprise shot/surprise attack, but this profile lives for the day that he gets to finish off something juicy with his monofilament CCW after it has been frozen in place with his Madtraps. Opponents who choose to delay AROs against him for fear of copping a full burst of combi/BSG to the face on a normal roll will quickly find themselves in the threat range of the Madtraps.  On the other hand, the Madtrap profile gets little mileage out of holoprojector level 1 however, as he would have to sacrifice his forward deployment level 2 (8 inches, an orders worth of distance) just to convincingly portray a handful of niche Madtrap profiles that no one really takes on their own. For other Kanren profiles without Madtraps who can impersonate a wider selection of Yu Jing profiles convincingly, I still don’t think it’s worth giving up 8 inches to occasionally trick new or casual players. That said, on these profiles holoprojector level 1 absolutely must be used! If you have a KHD or AHD, hide it by pretending to be a forward observer. If you have a forward observer, disguise it as an AHD to scare off heavy infantry and bait KHDs into wasting orders. Then, when your regular opponents start to suspect the ruse, you can mix it up a bit by “disguising” your KHD as a KHD. I believe this kind of profile level trickery is a lot harder to spot and manage than some of the grand ruses you see suggested elsewhere.

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The minelayer profile is interesting but extremely niche. It pretty much allows the Kanren to safely reveal enemy troops from Camo, TO or HD state in two orders so long as you have a Weibing or certain Zhanyings/Cranes in your list. Minelayer itself is pretty useless unless you know a hidden enemy has deployed less than 24 mm from the center line when you deploy the Kanren, or you know the location of his inferior/superior infiltration (Niche use against daylami and Shinobu/Oniwaban if you are psychic). Given the Kanren can already intuitive attack with his chain-colt, it’s probably not worth taking this profile over one of the specialist profiles. Whether to go with the Madtraps or specialist profiles is a tougher choice. Hopefully there will be another Kanren model down the line that is visibly a hacker so I can take two without doubling up, although with the current model lacking any visible equipment that is not common to all profiles, I would not hold my breath for this.

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Painting the Kanren was fairly straight forward because he is a chunky guy with an open pose, with one arm extending far away from his body. I say this often but it is just so much easier to paint models in one piece. Orange was the orange. Greys were a spectrum of GW Abbadon Black, Dawnstone and Ceramite White. LEDS were done with Scorpion Green. Tunic is Dark Angels Green Mixed with Regal Blue and then Bleached Bone for the highlights. Skin is Vallejo Bronze Fleshtone washed with Cavalry Brown, my go to recipe.

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As I’ve gradually picked up nearly all of the Yu Jing catalog, it’s not very often these days I get to write about a Yu Jing unit with a Chinese name for the first time anymore.
Kan ren.pngPronunciation is pretty straight forward, “Kan” sounds like the can in “can of coke” and “ren” is just like “rent eats up more than half of what I earn  and the rest is Infinity”. The unit bio tells us the characters 侃/kan and 刃/ren, proudly displayed on the unit’s insignia, respectively mean “Bold Edge” which is a fair call. 刃/ren is definitely the sharp part of a sword and 侃/kan means bold in the outspoken/cocky sense. 侃刃 is not really an existing term so I do wonder where CB got the idea to name their new unit. Perhaps it is a literal translation of a Spanish concept but that’s just speculation. Untitled.png

Assume the Crane Stance (for the second time)

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The Imperial Agent Crane Rank brandishing a spitfire is a model I never expected to release when it did and never knew I wanted until I took it for a spin.

With no skills or equipment that helps him shoot better, I often considered him as a cost-inefficient Shang ji with a bunch of niche gear tacked on to drag the cost up. This was especially true before HSN3 when only Crane Lts could form fireteams with Celestial Guard in Imperial Service for some reason.

Now, the Crane feels like a pricey but worthwhile upgrade for the Celestial Guard spitfire, and the efficiency of getting fireteam buffs from far cheaper troopers than himself comfortably cancels out the cost of his close combat bells and whistles that he was unlikely to use when going about his core business of mowing guys down at B5 BS16.

With Celestial Guard Guifeng Xi Zhuang and his Madtraps currently  in bits on my desk, local tables should soon be seeing a durable, versatile, scoring fireteam with a very mean anchor. I would still never take this profile out of a fireteam and I am interested to hear if anyone can make a case for it.

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Assembly was fairly easy. Whilst his chunkier braid is less identifiable as the Qing Dynasty Queue/Bianzi hairstyle, it has to date never snapped off. I know of some Morat players who wish they could say the same for their Daturazi.

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Thanks to his unusual pose (I still have no idea what he is doing) he was very simple to paint in one piece. The colours have changed slightly since the old crane but it wasn’t that hard to execute. The black was done the same as my beloved hac taos and the orange is the orange that I’ve been using since day one of the blog.

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The loincloth and tails were done with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Turquoise and Heavy Blackgreen with a black wash an highlights made by adding GW Bleached Bone to the initial mix. The “NMM” “gold” trim followed the same structureless please-god-let-this-work approach I employed on the Guijia‘s hook sword. I really should sit down with Angel’s book some time.

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And that’s all there is to it. If you want to know more about Cranes, especially the Chinese name, be sure to check out the post from when I did up my original Crane.

Miyamotwo Mushashi

At present I find myself wondering why I jumped at the chance to pay extra for early access to two more Miyamoto Mushashi’s than I have ever been tempted to take in a list.

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He looks cool in his alternate outfit, which I guess is part of the reason. Aside from looking cool, he’s also the most skilled melee fighter in all of Infinity, which might also have helped. He hits hard and often, and with a 6-4 move he can run like a gazelle, which may assist him in putting his talents to use.

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He has a decent dodge and a good flash pulse to help and keep him alive long enough to reach base contact, although he is likely to need assistance from long ranged weapons or smoke (other troopers) to navigate enemy AROs. All of this is theory though. I’ve never actually used him. My experience with Miyamoto boils down to a casual glance at his stats and reading all the volumes of Vagabond that were available in 2014. Hopefully I have more to talk about by the time I paint his other costume. miyamoto

That just leaves painting to talk about. I primed him with Army Painter Uniform Grey, as has been customary for my JSA troops. Aside from his skin, there are 4 major colour fields on the model. Light blue on his upper body, dark turquoise on his hat, shoulders, skirt and trousers, metal parts and leather for his webbing.

I deliberately tried to use the same blue on his upper body as I did on Yojimbo to so there would be some cohesion, whilst still being a unique looking figure. The dark turquoise is Vallejo Heavy Blackgreen mixed with GW Regal Blue and Abbadon Black. The metal parts were done the same was as on the Domaru Butai. The leather started with GW Scorched brown, and was stippled with Vallejo Cam Beige. By stippling, I mean I took an old brush, loaded some paint on the tip of the bristles, wiped most of it off until what was left was almost powdery, and then gently and repeatedly poked at the surface of the model with the tip of the brush. I don’t know if that is actually called stippling. The scabbard was done the same way but with much less “stippling”. I don’t want to talk about how the “tsunami” design on the back of his skirt turned out. Other than that I am very happy with him and he wasn’t that much of a bitch to paint, certainly not worse than any Tohaa model I’ve painted.

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All that’s left is to actually use him now.

Killing Mahsien

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I recently finished painting my first model from the very popular Operation Red Veil, choosing to prioritise the redesigned Hsien Warrior because he’ll fit right into my existing imperial service. I already have a painted Hsien in the previous style (itself actually a redesign of a model that came and went before I took the Infinity plunge). The Hsien armed with a MULTI rifle served me well, but I always wanted to try the HMG yet never got around to buying one until now (To my surprise, a Hsien Warrior with a MULTI rifle in the new design is apparently not far off).

20161105_104945.jpgThe Imperial Service is certainly becoming the sectorial army of high fashion. I do love these coats. But it’s not just looks that kill. Ballistic skill 14 kills as well. Especially when it’s taking aim with a heavy machine gun through a Multispectral Visor Level 2 (2 is only one less than 3). Camo? Dead. Thermoptic Camo? Dead. Optical Disruption Devices? Dead. Smoke? Dead. The Hsien hits what he aims at unless it has white noise or eclipse grenades, and unless it is buried in armour and cover, there is a good chance what he hits becomes Swiss cheese. His combination of negative mod removing visor, high burst and high ballistic skill means he should win most exchanges in his active turn, and that’s how he should be used. He has some extras, some might call distractions, including a nanopulser, CC skill of 19, Martial Arts Level 1 and an APCCW. I think it adds flavor, and it is not without gameplay utility, despite increasing his cost without increasing the delivery of his core business. Some people will point out that for one point more, the PanOceanian Aquila Guard  has BS 15 and MSV3, with the same armour and HMG. They are right that the Aquila Guard is some of the best value point and click in the game, but the Aquila Guard is not in a faction with 5 point smoke warbands.

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Many people have asked about which way the spines on the Hsien’s back should go. When the Hsien was designed, his antennae pointed up, and this can be seen on his dossier and on the renders released on Facebook by the sculptor, obscenely talented  Javier G. Urena. When the studio put him together, they decided they liked how it looked down and rolled with that. This was not unanimous, but being 4 separate bits, it’s up to the owner to pick how they go. I like how they look angled down when looking at the back (my view from the table in-game), but I am not convinced I made the right choice when I look at him from the front. He would certainly have a more interesting silhouette if I went with up.

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Painting him was pretty straight forward, although I regret not doing the coat before the armour. Because I did the armour in my typical orange, which involves a red wash that has a tendency to overflow, I normally do it first. The large area of the coat however tempted me to use a larger brush which hit the armour in places. Nothing I couldn’t fix, bit I’ll know for next time. The coat was done in 3 layers. First was Vallejo Heavy Blackgreen plus GW Regal Blue. Second was Heavy Blackgreen plus Vallejo Turquoise. Final was Heavy Blackgreen plus Turquoise plus GW Bleached Bone.

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Be sure to check out the article written about my first Hsien if you haven’t already. It includes an allegedly useful guide for pronouncing “Hsien”.

Dō-maru Beauty

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For a society that thought disemboweling yourself was beautiful, disemboweling your enemies must have been the bee’s knees. That’s what these guys do. They mulch things, aesthetically. They are so committed to beautiful death that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to get that perfect hit in, although with 2 wounds and ARM 3, often all that is sacrificed is your opponents sense of agency. An unopposed normal roll on 32 is about as sure as anything gets in Infinity. I’m unaware of any of any other stats being pushed higher by any other unit.

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The number of units in the game who feel like base contact with a Dō-maru is a good place to be can comfortably be counted on one hand. Even close combat monsters that are double or triple the cost like Seraphs and Achilles, who are likely but not guaranteed to turn the brave mecha samurai into scattered mince in retaliation, will more often than not find themselves immobilised  when the bits settle. That is of course, if the Dō-maru opts to take them on head-first, which may not be necessary when you can speculatively peg E/M grenades at PH 14.

In short, I love Dō-maru. I’ve used at least one every game I’ve played as JSA since the first one I bought was painted. I’ve used two in every game since HSN3 dropped. I think duo is obscenely good value on someone who has no real ranged combat ability and therefore often has to take the long way around to the enemy to avoid getting shot. There’s no downside to breaking a duo once you are arrive at your destination, so the extra order of the 0 SWC lieutenant option gives that extra boost which permits it to dive into the enemy ranks and go to work. When he finally does run out of steam, the second one is right around the corner.

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As for the other profiles, there is one which trades the E/M CCW for a DA CCW. This one has the advantage when you want to prioritize lethal damage. When the E/M CCW crits, the enemy still gets to make an ARM roll (against DAM 14), which could potentially be frustrating if slicing your way through chaff. In these situations however, I’ve found a solid critical karate chop is enough to send foes into blissful unconsciousness. I’d much rather the rare instance of having the enemy pass their save against DAM 12 by 1 or 2, than to have missed the opportunity to mission kill a TAG in one hit. There are also some profiles with various more expensive ranged weapons. I’ve yet to use one. Maybe I will in a core link however I’ve yet to explore core links with these guys. When I do go down that road, you can bet that it will be a Haramaki link with Dō-maru thrown in, to take every weakness of the unit and replace them with disgustingly optimised ranged strength.

I was extremely lazy painting these guys. I primed them with army painter Uniform Grey, like most of my JSA. I then painted their calf plates and servo muscles with GW Shadow Grey. I painted the abdominal and thigh guards, I think they are called Kusazuri and Haidate in Japanese, using GW Castellan Green. Then I gave the whole thing a fairly heavy wash with diluted GW Abaddon Black. Once that dried, I went back and hit the raised area of the abdominal and thigh guards with Castellan Green. I then mixed some GW Bubonic Brown into the Castellan Green and picked out the edges. This is barely visible at the moment so I might go back and do it again. Mine are noticeably flatter and darker than the studio’s. I then painted on the red panels of the shoulder pads (Sode) with GW Scab Red, which was then blacklined with the same wash, and highlighted with Scab Red mixed with GW Bleached Bone. Once that was all dry (and I mean really dry, nothing says impatient like a bright red finger print on white armour), I edge highlighted all the bits that I originally did in Shadow Grey with GW Ceramite White. I then painted the armour panels with the same colour. No layering, blending, mixing or anything. I just threw white at it, lazy as anything, but keeping out of the grooves. I tried to leave a fade to the original grey but it didn’t really happen.

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The scabbards were done with GW Blood Red, with Vallejo WW2 Ger. Cam. Beige banding. Note that my friend Dragonstriker from the forums fixed me up with the paired swords from an older Dō-maru to put on the Spitfire model, who ships without swords.

The electro Katanas were done by doing a hard edge highlight over the base-coat with white, before a few layers of watered down GW Liche Purple.

RAIDEN WINS

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FATALITY

I’ve had the Raiden painted and ready to go for a while but never really had much to say on account of only using him once or twice (in JSA) until now and using him poorly. It’s a shame because it is one of my favourite models. The colours and mask make him look so sinister. I’m even tempted to buy the spitfire model, even though I’ve never seen it in a list and have never been tempted to take one. The sniper has no model, so my experience is entirely with the HRL.

The role of the Raiden in JSA is a tricky one. With a long range weapon, camo and mines, they have the look of a defensive troop. The implicit strategy is to deploy both the camouflaged Raiden and his mine in threatening positions, and let the enemy waste order discovering, throwing smoke etc. This is how I used mine most of the time.

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Then when they discover the real Raiden, begin trading shots.

This falls apart when an enemy who knows Raidens well calls the bluff. They know your strategy depends on them wasting orders, so they can be pretty confident you will not ARO until the Raiden is in danger. Worst case scenario they move to where they can see both the mine and the Raiden on the first short skill and discover against one on the second. If they succeed and it’s a mine, they declare discover-shoot on the other. If they discovered the actual Raiden first go, a firefight ensues that will almost favour the active model unless it goofed by bringing friends into the blast radius. Raidens have no abilities that really enhance their ARO competency. In fact, using them in ARO throws away their primary advantages – surprise shot. The Raiden should use this one-hit-wonder to actively clear enemy troops. Working against him in this role is the fact that he is a bit slow getting to the exact circumstances he shines in (at 4-2  believe he is the single slowest mover in JSA), and that is that the surprise shot won’t work against a link team with the 4 member bonus, which is quite often the ARO troop who needs clearing the most and your best chance of catching others in the template.

On the face of it he just does not compare favourably to the lightning fast Aragoto Spitfire, who is also often used as an ice-breaker shooting his way through enemy defences, but then has later turn utility as a suppression turret you can park anywhere. The Aragoto costs more points, but less SWC and SWC is normally where I feel the squeeze first in JSA. This is because I almost always take a Keisotsu link with a missile launcher and frequently take an O-yoroi lieutenant. Add in an Aragoto spitfire and hacker and that’s the SWC gone. I did end up making a list I liked without the Aragoto, and finally Raiden had a chance to do his job.

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The Corregador Nomads I was up against locked down a flank with an overclocked Tsyklon that was equipped with a Fuerebach. The O-Yoroi was pinned behind a building and I did not want to risk copping 2 explosive hits on a chunk of my army that size. So the Raiden plucked up his newly issued V: Courage and tried his luck. 2 shots each, same range mods and ballistic skill. The surprise shot modifier was the decider which opened the flank for the samurai to do samurai shit.

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As for painting the Raiden, he has an open pose that makes painting him in one piece a breeze. All the colours used were the same as on this Keisotsu step by step.

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